Lactose-free milk is real dairy milk just without lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products that can be difficult for some people to digest. I’m one of those people who cannot digest lactose and avoid milk, ice cream, and some yogurt brands because it causes bloating and gas. The difference between lactose-free milk and regular cow’s milk is lactase. Lactase is an enzyme produced in the small intestine and breaks down lactose in the body. Food manufacturers add lactase to regular milk to make lactose-free milk. Lactose-free milk has nearly the same taste, texture, and nutrients as regular milk. It has the same number of calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrate content. Swap lactose-free milk for regular milk in your favorite recipes.
Drinking lactose-free milk benefits those who are lactose intolerant due to a lactase deficiency. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) an estimated 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is more common in some ethnic groups than others. NIDDK estimates that up to 75% of all adult African Americans and Native Americans and 90% of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. Lactose-free milk makes digestion easier and is a great source of protein, consisting about 8 grams in 1 cup and also high in calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, and may be fortified with Vitamin D.
One of the downsides of lactose-free milk is cost. Depending on the brand the price of lactose-free milk can cost twice as much as regular milk. It’s not as affordable as regular milk and may not be readily available at every grocery store. Lactose-free milk is sweeter because lactase, an enzyme, breaks lactose down into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. Our taste buds perceive these simple sugars as sweeter than complex sugars, therefore, giving lactose-free milk a sweeter flavor than regular milk.
Lactose-free milk is a good alternative to regular milk for anyone who is lactose intolerant and suffers from gas, bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Lactose-free milk can be a solution for individuals who have problems with dairy products. However, because lactose-free milk comes from cow’s milk it’s not suitable for:
- anyone with a dairy/milk allergy
- individuals following a vegan lifestyle
- individuals following a dairy-free diet
- highly lactose-sensitive individuals
Additionally, lactose-free isn’t the same as lactose-reduced. The terms lactose-free and lactose-reduced have different meanings, and a lactose-reduced product may still contain lactose that could cause symptoms. Look at the ingredient label. If any of these words are listed, the product probably contains lactose and should be avoided:
- evaporated milk
- condensed milk
- dried milk
- powdered milk
- milk solids